“Are you nervous?” Rose asks as she helps me pull my graduation gown over my head. I grimace when I look down, seeing what looks like a basketball pushing against the silky material. There’s no hiding it any longer.
“Couldn’t they have picked black gowns?” I grumble as I attempt to smooth the clingy, white fabric down. “I look like a bigger version of Casper the ghost in this thing.” I see Rose bite her lip to keep from laughing as she somehow manages to make the same outfit look chic and stylish. I have little doubt she could wear a trash bag and make it look like something off a runway. She’s wearing mile-high heels that do amazing things for her legs while Lucian had made me promise to wear flats. He was worried about me tripping when going up the steps to accept my diploma. I could have ignored his advice, but I figured he might have a small point about me overbalancing. My stomach was now a force of gravity that made extra safety measures necessary.
Rose throws her arm around my shoulder and hugs me tight. “We did it, chick. Can you believe we’re graduating today?”
I swallow down the sudden lump in my throat as I return her embrace. “I know. It doesn’t seem real. I spent so long just taking it one week at a time, that I never noticed when months began passing. Have you decided what you’re going to do now?” I had asked Rose that before but hadn’t really received a straight answer.
“Oh, I don’t know,” she says. “My dad wants me to work on the campaign for one of his friends who’s up for reelection to the senate. I guess I’ll do that and then go from there. At this point, I just consider it a victory that I’ve managed to avoid moving back home. How about you?”
I can tell by her carefully blank expression that there’s more to it than what she’s saying, but I’ve learned that if Rose doesn’t want to talk about something, then you might as well leave it alone. She’ll continue to change the subject until you let it go. I give her a rueful smile as I pat my stomach. “I guess I’m out of the job hunt until after the baby. It’s not likely that anyone will be interested in hiring me looking like I’m going to go into labor at any moment.” I still have four more months to go until my due date, but my stomach is huge.
“I bet your dad or Lucian would hire you in a minute,” she suggests even though she knows my opinion on both of those options. Lee and I continue to take small steps toward building some kind of relationship, but it still seems weird to hear someone refer to him so casually. “True,” I agree, “but I can just imagine the talk from other employees at Quinn Software if Lucian’s pregnant girlfriend joined the staff. He doesn’t give a damn and has said as much, but I do—enough for both of us. It would be tough to prove myself there while sleeping with the boss under the best of circumstances, but toss in the fact that I’m pregnant and it’d be almost impossible to get any respect. The same thing goes for working at Falco—minus the sleeping with the boss issue, of course.” Lee has brought up the subject of us working together several times, going so far as to say it’s my birthright. I would love to work for a company such as his. It’s what I trained for. But I don’t want him hiring me out of some kind of guilt or responsibility. It’s best we don’t complicate things between us right now. “I’m going to use the time before the baby is born to research some of the companies in the area that might be interested in hiring me in the future. To get my name out there, I could also sign up with one of the recruiters the college recommends.”
Giving me an approving smile, Rose says, “That sounds like a good plan. They would be lucky to have you. Hey, where’s Lucian? I know there’s no way he would miss your graduation.”
Giving my hair one final brush, I say, “He had an important meeting this morning. I told him I could drive myself, but he insisted that I call you. He is going to meet us there.” I don’t tell her that Lucian has been acting strange for the last few days. I have a feeling there is some type of problem at work since Max has dropped by a couple of times looking unusually stressed. Both Aidan and Max had been at our apartment last night where they had gone into the office for a few hours. Afterward, Lucian had been preoccupied and distant. I’d tried to ask him if anything was wrong, but he had assured me there wasn’t anything, just some last-minute changes on a deal they were working on. I had no reason not to believe him, but something just didn’t seem right. This morning he had been more like his usual self although still tense. Whatever it was, I hope the meeting today resolved it. Lucian leaving work at the office and relaxing with me in the evenings has spoiled me.
Rose looks at her watch and says, “We’d better get going before we’re late.” Rose is a stickler for punctuality and likes to arrive everywhere well ahead of schedule. I have a feeling she gets that from her father. She rushes me out the door and into her waiting car. Traffic is light so we make it to the outdoor venue the university is using for our graduation quickly. I’m thankful for the beautiful weather and that it’s not too hot. The only thing worse than me in this white silk muumuu would be me sweating visibly through the thin material. I take a few moments to look around me, seeing no sign of Lucian. Where are you? I wonder as I feel a pang of unease ripple through me.
“Where in the fuck is Max?” I hiss to Aidan as we sit in the waiting area. Since there isn’t a jury involved, the meeting will be held in the judge’s chambers.